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Stop Drinking Medications



You may have heard about medications people use to stop drinking in the UK. You may even believe one of these medications is right for you. Whether or not that’s true is a determination that can only be made by a doctor. If you think you might have a drinking problem that needs help, seeing a doctor or calling a counselling service is the place to start.

There are currently only three medications in the UK approved for use among alcoholics or alcohol abusers. We’ll talk about each of them here. But first, you must understand that there is no magic pill that will cure alcoholism or alcohol abuse. Any medication you take is only designed to help you along the way. The only cure for addictive alcohol behaviour is a combination of proper treatment and your desire and willingness to do whatever it takes to quit.

The three medications currently approved in the UK are:

  • Disulfiram – used as a deterrent

  • Acamprosate – used during rehab as a maintenance medication

  • Naltrexone – used to reduce cravings in order to maintain abstinence.

We should also note that all three of these medications become useless if the individual begins drinking regularly again. With each additional drink, the effects of the medication are gradually less noticeable until they eventually have no effect at all.

Disulfiram as a Deterrent

A doctor may prescribe Disulfiram when a patient is diagnosed as an alcohol abuser or still in the early stages of alcoholism. It acts as a deterrent by causing a very unpleasant physical reaction when drinking alcohol. The medication is taken every day throughout the course of the regimen.

So, how does it work? Disulfiram takes advantage of how the human body processes alcohol. Under normal circumstances, the liver breaks down alcohol using a specific enzyme. That’s why it takes a moderate amount of alcohol before there is enough in the system to feel intoxicated. Disulfiram blocks that enzyme so the alcohol cannot be processed.

After just one drink, there is enough alcohol in the system to cause both intoxication and the resulting hangover. The hangover is the key to how this medication works. It produces a very intense hangover within just a few minutes of taking a drink. If it’s that unpleasant, some will be dissuaded from trying to drink at all.

Acamprosate During Rehab

The most common use of acamprosate is for maintenance purposes during rehab. This medication is thought to balance out the chemicals in the brain that have been previously altered by excessive drinking. In so doing, the drug reduces the cravings for alcohol in some people. If it proves especially effective, it may be prescribed for continued use after rehab is complete.

Like disulfiram, the effectiveness of acamprosate is gradually reduced if the individual continues to drink. Doing both can also result in some very unpleasant side effects, including high blood pressure and irregular heartbeat.

Naltrexone for Abstinence

For many a recovering alcoholic, the months immediately following treatment are the most difficult. Doctors may sometimes prescribe naltrexone if they believe maintaining abstinence could be an issue. Naltrexone works by blocking the chemicals in the brain that creates feelings of pleasure. In theory, the medication makes drinking less pleasurable and, as result, takes away the primary motivation for drinking in the first place.

There is some debate over whether or not naltrexone should be used. On the one hand, proponents argue that reducing alcohol cravings is a necessary step for continued abstinence. On the other hand, if it only works to block the pleasure receptors triggered by alcohol consumption, it really has no effect on the individual who is successfully maintaining abstinence.

Breaking the Habit

As we mentioned earlier, there is no medication that can cure you of alcohol abuse or addiction. Unfortunately, it is that desire for a ‘quick fix’ that prevents some who abuse alcohol from seeking help. Just remember this: it took some time to become an alcoholic; it will take some time to completely recover.

Breaking an alcohol addiction starts by admitting you have a problem and being willing to do something about it. You must be willing to honestly assess your situation in light of the common signs and symptoms of both alcohol abuse and addiction.

If you are an alcohol abuser who has not yet reached the level of addiction, you should recognise some of these signs in your own life:

  • you drink casually more than once or twice per week

  • you engage in binge drinking more than once every few months

  • you purposely drink to become intoxicated

  • you use alcohol to escape your problems or make you feel better.

Left untreated, alcohol abuse can very easily become addiction. If you are already addicted, you will recognise some of the following signs:

  • you drink as soon as you get out of bed in the morning

  • you find yourself planning your day around alcohol

  • you find yourself worrying about where your next drink is coming from

  • friends and family members express concern over your drinking habits

  • you regularly lie to others about how much and how often you drink

  • you find you need more alcohol to experience the same level of pleasure.

Assuming you recognise some of the signs of abuse or addiction in your own life, it’s time to start moving in the direction of breaking your habit. It is time for you to seek out the appropriate treatment that will free you from alcohol once and for all.

Detox and Rehab

There are two basic approaches to breaking the alcohol addiction: detox alone or detox combined with rehab. Detox deals with your physical addiction while rehab deals with the mental and emotional addictions. Which one is right for you depend on the severity of your addiction.

As an independent referral service, we can help you determine whether you are an alcohol abuser or an addict. Then we can point you to the services and programmes appropriate to your circumstances. However, we cannot help until you contact us.

Right now, you’re thinking about it. So right now is the time to do something about it. Pick up the phone and call us, or send us an e-mail. We want to help you get started on the road to recovery.

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